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Arthur Miller's The Crucible Fire Essay

1436 words - 6 pages

Dylan Buchman
Mrs. Patterson
American Lit. / Rhet., Per. 2
12 December 2008
Miller’s Fire of The Crucible
In many well-written literary works, authors relay their messages to their audience through rhetoric strategies, and some of the best rhetoric can be found in Arthur Miller’s 1952 play, The Crucible. Miller uses imagery of fire to convey many different messages throughout the play, and in doing so, he increases its effect on the audience. He often uses fire to represent feelings or the state of a character, such as love, guilt, devastation, sin, and chaos. The Crucible’s fire imagery is used to illustrate the aspects of life’s trials or the sinful nature of man, or to ...view middle of the document...

His cold marriage is a constant reminder of his sin, and because he cannot do anything to automatically make Elizabeth trust him again, he feels that she is not forgiving him. His guilt is excruciating, but because he cannot come to terms with it, he is unable, or unwilling, to testify against Abby’s credibility when she starts calling innocent people of the town out as witches.
In the majority of the text, fire is commonly used to represent sin. As Proctor begins to feel the necessity to leave from Parris before he is humiliated by himself, in Parris’ arrogant, spiteful comments, he makes this statement: “I have lumber… to drag home” (Miller 1.31). Arthur Miller uses the lumber, or the firewood, to represent the fuel of the “fire”. Not long after John leaves, the witch hunt begins with the first testimonies against the weak figures of the community. John goes home in shame and guilt of his affair, leaving the town to begin the witch hunt. He is too prideful and embarrassed to stay, and because of this, he is not present when Abby starts testifying against the first people and Abby becomes the most powerful person in the town. He could easily destroy her credibility by making her look like a whore, but to do so, he would have to give up his own reputation as well. As he returns home, he leaves the “firewood” of his affair with Abby: he is not present to discredit her, he leaves her with love for him yet, and she sets out to destroy Elizabeth. “He swings the pot into the fireplace and… washes his hands…” (2.49). Rather than admitting to his affair and repenting right at the start, Proctor does not confess because he still wants to preserve his good reputation, and as a result, he involuntarily puts the “pot into the fireplace”, or puts the town into a destructive ferment during which many of the people will be burned. He “washes his hands” of the situation, just as Pontius Pilate did with Jesus of Nazareth, because he wants to stay in the people’s favor. The fire in this fireplace is a representation of sin, because it is sin that burns the people of Salem.
Arthur Miller gives fire many faces in The Crucible, and they all work together to support the overall theme and purpose of the play. “There might also be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it” (Miller 3.104). Ironically, in his sarcasm, John Proctor spoke the truth, as he truly did have a monster in his closet. That dragon would be the affair between him and Abby that no one knew of; the fire it breathed out, that consumed him from the inside, is guilt. However, in the deadly Salem witch trials nothing could remain secret. In the end when both John and Elizabeth are brought in and jailed, John is forced to reveal the affair to the Court so that the people and the Court may be disabused from the girls’ deception. The Court truly believes what it is doing is right because Danforth and the others are...

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